What does your business have in common with Google? If you rely heavily on freelance workers, the answer to that question is more than you might think.

For the first time in its 20-year-history, Google employed more freelance workers than full-time employees, according to a Bloomberg report citing a person who viewed Google's employment figures earlier this year. It's unclear how the size of Google's "extended workforce" has changed since the individual viewed the data, but Google reported that its  headcount stood at 89,058 at the end of June.

Google declined to comment on its employment data, but a spokesperson for the company told Inc. that it hires temp workers primarily to fill in for employees on parental leave, to address short-term spikes in workload, and to provide expertise it doesn't have in-house.

Hiring temp workers often helps companies keep costs down while increasing work output and productivity. A recent NPR/Marist poll found that 1 in 5 employees in the U.S. is an independent contractor, while another study by economists Alan Krueger and Lawrence Katz revealed that freelance workers accounted for 15.8 percent of all jobs in the U.S. in 2015, up from 10.1 percent a decade earlier. 

Google's contract workers get access to certain perks available to full-time employees. These include free food at the cafeteria and access to some of the company's facilities like bowling alleys and gyms. Other perks are available for a price, such as the shuttle bus to Google's campuses, which is free for staff. A Google spokesperson told Inc. the company charges contract workers "less than $2 per ride" for the bus because if it were free it would be considered a taxable benefit that could impact wages. 

Google employee badges have different colors based on security clearances and whether a worker is full-time or on contract, the company told Inc. This has led some contract workers feeling like they exist in a two-class system. "People look down on you even though you're doing the same work," one contractor told Bloomberg. "You're there, but you're not there."

Published on: Jul 26, 2018